Dust (Kama Sutra Records ’71, Sony Legacy '13) Rating: A-
New York’s underrated Dust delivered a pair of very good psychedelic-tinged hard rock albums before disbanding into the ranks of the largely forgotten, though their three members subsequently went on to other notable endeavors. Guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise went on to produce KISS’ first two albums, bassist Kenny Aaronson became a much in demand player who worked with a host of notable artists, and Marc Bell was later in Richard Hell & The Voidoids and then (as Marky Ramone) the Ramones. This album definitely deserved more success than it received, though like many early “proto-metal” bands from the early ‘70s these guys, thanks to Internet websites and non-traditional radio stations (Internet, Sirius, etc.), are being rediscovered by fans interested in the early origins of hard rock. The album starts with “Stone Woman,” a solid slide guitar showcase but not one of my favorite songs here. The gritty, heavier, riff-based “Chasin’ Ladies” is better, though the dumb lyrics demonstrate a decided band weakness. But this is hard rock we’re talking about, not sensitive singer-songwriter stuff, so it’s the music that most matters, not lyrics, and the music is damn good. In contrast to the evil woman/cock rock lyrics of the first two tracks, “Goin’ Easy” is a love song that, well, goes easier, but “Love Me Hard” again sees the guys all hot and bothered on an explosive rocker that’s the album's best song so far. For me the clear highlight of the album, however, is the nearly 10-minute “From A Dry Camel;” with its wonderfully dark Sabbath-ian riffs, psychedelic/progressive elements, and deliciously dark overall mood, this one is nothing less than an epic hard rock masterpiece. I really like the atmospheric, psychedelic “Often Shadows Fall” as well, and though I’m less enamored with the “Loose Goose” instrumental, it does show what a beast Aaronson is on bass guitar. Actually, all three instrumentalists put in impressive performances throughout this album, and Wise is a solid if unspectacular vocalist as well. Simply put, it has its flaws (dumb lyrics, inconsistent songwriting) but this is still a very good early hard rock album that deserves to be better known.
Hard Attack (Kama Sutra Records ’72, Sony Legacy '13) Rating: A-
OK, in contrast to the song-by-song rundown of the first album, I'm going to keep this review brief, because if you liked the first album then you should definitely like this second installment as well. Besides, they're now both available via Sony Legacy's 2-for-1 Hard Attack/Dust reissue, which I highly recommend (though they strangely sequenced this second album first rather than second). First of all, I just love the macho Frank Frazetta cover art on the original version of this album. Secondly, the music is again very good, a bit more varied than the debut but it's of a similarly high quality. Of course, you could (and I would) argue that perhaps the band branching out isn't always a good thing, as the mellower, at times country-ish attempts aren't as effective as when they opt to rock out. On such songs (the rocking out ones I mean), Bell is a whirling dervish behind the drum kit in a way that he never was with the Ramones, I've already raved about Aaronson, and Wise continues to impress on guitar (again less so with the vocals though they're not bad) as well as write all the material (with lyrical help from co-producer Kenny Kerner, also later associated with KISS). "Pull Away/So Many Times," "Learning to Die," ""Ivory" (a raging instrumental), and "Suicide" (probably their best song along with "From A Dry Camel") are the hard-hitting highlights for me (though some have their mellower moments as well), but this strong second set is easily enjoyable from start to finish.